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Redfish (formally called red drum) are a great saltwater game fish to fish for when other species aren’t biting. They’ll bite at many different types of lures and put up a great fight when hooked. Just check out the video below!
We recently covered the best fishing rods for redfish, so we thought it made sense to also review the best reels for redfish! Redfish are powerful saltwater sportfish that require a strong saltwater-proof reel to bring them in.
In this article, we cover our choices for the best redfish reels, as well as go into detail as to why we picked the reels for redfish. These reels will also work great for other similar-sized saltwater species, such as black drum (which taste great!) and cobia.
In a hurry? You can check out a summary of our choices and reasoning for the best reels for redfish below. Keep scrolling and you’ll find our detailed analysis with the pros and cons of each reel. Let’s get started!
In a Hurry? Here are Our Top Picks…
Best Spinning Reel for Redfish
Penn Battle II Spinning Reel
The Penn Battle II Spinning Reel has won several of our other reel comparisons, and it wins again for the best reel for redfish. The same reasons it won our best overall saltwater spinning reel apply for redfish: it’s durable, not too expensive, and has all the features both amateurs and pros demand. We did a more in-depth review of the reel earlier this year, but here are some of the highlights.
The reel comes in eight different versions with varying drag and line capabilities depending on the type of fish you’re going for. For larger bull redfish, we recommend buying the 6000 or 8000 models as they have a higher line test rating.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel comes with an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system that helps with keeping the reel cool while battling aggressive redfish that may overpower other tackle setups. The drag system also has carbon fiber washers that help with heat build-up
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is built with five shielded stainless steel ball bearings. This is crucial for saltwater redfish fishing as the salt will easily corrode anything that isn’t stainless.
The main spool system of the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel requires no backing and is braided line ready. Most redfish fishermen use a combination of monofilament (for the leader) and braided (for the backing), so this capability is essential.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel frame is made out of aluminum which keeps the overall weight down. This allows for agility when casting as well as battling smaller redfish on a lighter test line. The metal side plate protects the reel from shock and adds to its durability. The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel 3000 has six bearings and a gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- Built to last years of fishing for redfish.
- Designed to withstand heavy saltwater use.
- Great for other species too.
- More expensive than economical options.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is a great fishing reel for redfish fishermen looking to have it all. It’s an excellent reel to buy if you’re just getting into redfish fishing and want a reel that will last a long time, while still performing at a high level. It’s also a great choice if you plan on buying a reel that you’ll use for a variety of saltwater fish species.
Best Surfcasting Reel for Redfish
Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel is our redfish surfcasting reel of choice. It costs more than what some of the reels in our test are listed for but comes with many features that redfish surfcasting fishermen would want. It’s built for heavy-duty redfish fishing, and will take on most aggressive bull redfish you throw its way.
It’s worth noting that the Penn Battle II and KastKing Sharky III can also be used for surf fishing, but don’t have the range of the Ultegra. The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel comes in two different versions, but we recommend the bigger 14000 for redfish fishing.
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel features Shimano’s X-ship technology. The X-ship technology improved reel gear durability and eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gears which increases casting performance. This allows the redfish fisherman to fling redfish lures further than other reels.
It also comes with Shimano’s Hagane gearing system. The Hagane gearing system provides long-lasting and strong performance in redfish fishing situations. The Hagane gearing system also prevents corrosion by protecting the gears from exposure to salt.
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel features a Cross Carbon Drag system that provides long-lasting smoothness. This is especially useful when dealing with fast and powerful runs from larger bull redfish or tarpon.
The two different models of the Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 14000 since it makes the most sense for redfish fishing. The 14000 can hold up to 600 yards of 12 lb test, 440 yards of 16 lb test, and 330 yards of 20 lb test. The 14000 weighs 21.9 oz.
- Great redfish reel for surf fishing.
- It has more surfcasting features compared to other models.
If you’ve got the budget, we highly recommend the Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel. It has the features that experienced redfish surf fishermen require, and will perform at the highest levels under pressure. Perfect for fighting large bull redfish that live in the surf.
Most Economical Reel for Redfish
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel
The KastKing Sharky III is our choice for the best economical redfish reel. It’s our favorite cheap saltwater reel. Saltwater spinning reels often cost more than freshwater reels – mostly because their components have to be made with materials that don’t rust as easily. This means the price inevitably goes up as well. But with the KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel, you get everything you need in a redfish reel for a fraction of the price.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is packed with everything you need to start your redfish fishing hobby, and its price can’t be beaten. Pair it with one of our favorite redfish rods, and you’ll have a budget setup that can handle almost any redfish you throw at it. The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel comes in five different versions, but the 4000 and 5000 work perfectly for redfish.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is built with a lightweight aluminum frame that’s been expertly balanced for smooth reel action. Its superior drag system offers incredible stopping power with up to 39.5 lbs of drag pull. It’s hardened steel shaft with mesh gear drive will withstand intense redfish battles and ensure your equipment won’t fail you when it matters most.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel has ten ball bearings for smooth spinning.The bearing are protected by the KastKing KISS water protection sealing that prevents them from being exposed to the elements (and salt).
The five different models of the KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 4000 and 5000 since they make the most sense for redfish fishing. The 4000 can hold up to 220 yards of 10 lb test or 200 yards of 12 lb test. The 5000 can hold up to 220 yards of 12 lb test or 190 yards of 14 lb test. The 4000 weighs 10.2 oz while the 5000 weighs 10.6 oz. Both have a max drag of 39.5 lbs. Perfect for battling large redfish!
- Its feature to price ratio is outstanding.
- It has everything you need to start redfish fishing.
- Limited features.
- Budget components.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel has everything you need to start redfish fishing, and it costs less than almost every other saltwater reel on the market. The 4000 and 5000 sizes are the most appropriate for inshore/boat redfish fishing and come with everything you need to get started. The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is a great option for redfish fishermen on a budget.
Best Balanced Reel for Redfish
SeaKnight Rapid Fishing Reel
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel is our balanced reel for redfish winner for many reasons. It has more features than the most economical reels but doesn’t cost as much as the high-end options like the Shimano Ultegra. It also will work well in both surfcasting and inshore redfish fishing situations. The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel comes in five different sizes with varying line capacity and reel size. The 5000 and 6000 are the most suited for redfish.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel comes with many custom high-quality components. The reel features a ten count ball bearing system with corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings. This ensures the reel will stay functional for many years of heavy action in shoreline fishing conditions.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel’s body is built out of machined and anodized aluminum and has a braided line ready spool. The reel’s carbon fiber drag system features sealed washers that stay lubricated for smoothing reeling. The reel has a 15kg/33 lb drag system, which is great for reeling in large redfish quickly and safely.
The five different models of the SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 5000 and 6000 since they make the most sense for redfish. The 5000 can hold up to 400 yards of 14 lb test, 320 yards of 18 lb test, and 260 yards of 20 lb test. The 6500 can hold up to 360 yards of 20 lb test, 280 yards of 25 lb test, and 220 yards of 30 lb test. The 5000 and 6000 both weigh 23 oz. Both have a gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- A great option for both surf fishing and inshore.
- Lighter than other models.
- Better options for just inshore redfish fishing/surf fishing.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel is another great option for redfish fishermen that are just starting out or want to be able fish for redfish in multiple situations. The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel has all the features you look for in a redfish reel and the flexibility to fish both in the surf and from a boat.
We wanted to highlight a few overarching features we looked for when reviewing the above reels for our best reel for redfish.
Sealed bearings are necessary for redfish reels due to the highly corrosive nature of saltwater. If your reel doesn’t have a sealed bearing system, it will quickly rust with use and eventually become unusable. An anti-reverse switch is also important for redfish fishing.
The anti-reverse switch will help you set the hook effectively and make sure the line doesn’t go slack when reeling in your large redfish bait or setting the hook.
Reels for use in redfish fishing, or any fishing situation in saltwater should have stainless steel components to keep corrosion at bay. Stainless steel ball bearings and brass or stainless steel gear systems are important considerations.
Proper Gear Ratio for Redfish
Redfish are strong fish and love to take cover near underwater structures. If your reel has a low gear ratio, you’ll risk getting your line snagged and losing them. This means that reels with at least a 5.5:1 gear ratio are best for redfish.
Author Note: This ratio and above allow the fishermen to reel the redfish away from rocks and weeds that could break off their line.
If you are fishing areas that are relatively free of snags, a higher gear ratio can get the job done, and they give the added benefit of faster retrieves and quick reeling for throwback casts.
Spinning or Baitcasting Reels?
Both spinning and baitcasting reels work for catching redfish, and many anglers prefer one or the other depending on the situation. With that said, spinning reels still are the more popular of the two reel types.
Baitcasting reels seem to work well in shallow water locations like estuaries, where casting distance is only moderate, while in areas like flats where long-distance casting is essential a spinning reel will be your best bet.
At the end of the day, this might boil down to preference, so go with whatever will work for you best.
Robust Drag System
The drag system is responsible for putting pressure on a redfish when it tries to run from your boat. As with a higher gear ratio, having solid drag capability prevents redfish from snagging your line against rocks or weeds.
A good redfish reel also needs a higher drag pressure than other reels because redfish are often much larger than other species. A drag pressure of 25 lbs or more is usually a good place to start. This will help keep a strong redfish in check and help you tire them out faster.
Redfish can grow to be 40 pounds in weight, so a reel with a reliable, smooth, and powerful drag is crucial to successfully fight redfish.